First Hong Kong study into LGBT people at work published

Groundbreaking study makes business case for LGBT inclusive workplaces in Hong Kong

he first study into LGBT inclusion at work in Hong Kong has found closeting stifles productivity.

The majority, 60%, of the LGBT people who filled in the anonymous online survey are not out at work and 44% are not out to their parents.

Only 13% of LGBT employees said they have personally experienced negative treatment at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but 34% said it was hard to tell.

‘In the West we see discrimination in violence, bullying or insults, but in Hong Kong discrimination seems to be more indirect, more subtle… but it doesn’t mean the environment is friendly for LGBT employees,’ Amanda Yik, co-author of the study told Gay Star News.

The damaging part for businesses is that when employees feel they can’t be open at work their work suffers: 53% reporting being exhausted, depressed and stressed by having to pretend to be someone they are not. ‘They have to lie about their personal life frequently so their ability to build authentic relationships with colleagues and business contacts is severely impacted,’ said Yik.

‘In terms of business impact we do see very very real evidence that the wellbeing, productivity, level of staff engagement and the company’s ability to retain talent is negatively impacted if the workplace is non-inclusive,’ Yik said. ‘On the flipside we see people who are able to come out at work say that their are more efficient.’

As well as interviewing over 600 LGBT employees in Hong Kong, the study examined the general Hong Kong population’s attitude to LGBT people through a representative sample of 1,000 contacted through random telephone calls by a reputable pollster.

‘We’ve always assumed that HK is a conservative society, influenced by family values, patriarchy,’ said Yik. ‘But one of the main findings of the study is that there are signs that Hong Kong maybe more accepting that we have always assumed.’

The majority, 50% or 58% said they are accepting or somewhat accepting of LGBT people and 80% said that discrimination against LGBT people at work is unacceptable.

However, the study found that discrimination is still taking place. ‘We found a solid quarter, 25% are not accepting of LGBT individuals,’ said Yik. ‘And a big chunk of people say it’s ok discriminate at work, for example deny a customer facing role to an LGBT individual [35%]. We see that older people are less accepting, parents are less accepting, people from certain religious groups are less accepting too.’

The non-profit CSR consultants who ran the survey, Community Business, had looked into creating an index to rate companies based on their LGBT inclusiveness.

‘We quickly found out that companies were not ready in Hong Kong,’ says Community Business senior project officer Kevin Burns. ‘We had our list of criteria for how companies would be evaluated and basically all of them scored zeros, ten per cent, 15 per cent. No company’s going to participate in an index if they are showing up at zero.’

So instead, in 2010 Community Business produced a resource guide with recommendations for LGBT inclusiveness, accompanied by an awareness campaign with seminars for companies. During the awareness campaign Barclays bank approached Community Business about working together on ‘a big visible piece that’s going to drive change in Asia,’ Burns said.

‘We said there’s just not enough information on what difficulties LGBT individuals are facing in the workplace and what the general population in Hong Kong thinks about working with LGBT employees,’ said Burns.

Barclays’ head of operations in Asia, Richard Seeley, said of the results of the study: ‘The baseline conclusion is that corporate sector in Hong Kong must take the proactive and leading role in affecting efforts to foster LGBT-inclusive environments.’

Community Business hope that the international companies who they often work with will look at the report and adapt their workplace to become more LGBT inclusive, but the real challenge is to engage with local Hong Kong businesses.

‘For local companies its really about showing them that LGBT inclusiveness is a serious business issue rather than a taboo subject,’ said Yik. ‘Taking the decision not to do anything about it means that you allow, potentially, discrimination to happen in your workplace because things happen unless you regulate it.’

Download the full report here.(

by Anna Leach
Source – Gay Star News